Magic and the Lakers

As of February 21, Magic Johnson became the Executive Vice President of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers used to be one of the most exciting and successful organizations in the NBA. However, the team has just posted two of the worst consecutive seasons in franchise history, and are on pace for another historically bad season.

So, what does this have to do with marketing? All sports teams go through ups and down, but I am always fascinated when historically great teams come crashing down to unimaginable lows. How does this happen?

I think sports fans and the general public often believe that sports boil down to whether or not athletes perform at game time. Yet, the Lakers decision to turn all basketball operations over to Magic Johnson, a legendary player who is one of the most decorated Lakers of all time, but has no experience in sports management, seems to suggest there are other factors to consider.

It seems to me that the Lakers are trying to leverage Magic Johnson’s reputation as a means of reshaping the organizations image. We have seen this strategy work in more traditional business settings. It is common for companies to attach themselves to a celebrity or influencer to gain credibility. However, can this work for a professional sports organization?


Magic has been a fixture in the Los Angeles sports scene and community since the 1980s. Therefore, he has the reputation and credibility needed to be an influential leader, even though he lacks management experience. Do you think Magic Johnson can succeed? What can he do to improve the Laker organization? What dangers does the organization face if he is not successful? Do you think this decision is worth the risk?


Plaschke, B. (2017). Can the greatest laker ever save the worst lakers ever? Los Angeles Times. February, 27, 2017. Retrieved from:


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5 Responses to Magic and the Lakers

  1. labbasi says:

    I think Magic Johnson can succeed. This isn’t his first time being a owner or partner in a sports team. He has some ownership with the LA Dodgers. He as more experiance as a basketball player and it makes sense. Just like those before him (Micheal Jordan), he is making a business empire with the thing that made him famous. I feel that makes him have more heart into it.

    It will fall back more in his reputation if he does not succeed, not the Lakers. Because of his previous experience, more will be expected from him. I’m not expecting a miracle over night, but maybe in 2-3 years he can change the team around since Kobe left.

    I see Magic like Shaq and Jordan. Older basketball players making a living now from what they love but making more money as a true business man.

    • pfistere says:

      I also think Magic Johnson can succeed. At this point, since the Lakers have experienced two of the worst consecutive seasons in franchise history, it seems that a fresh face could provide a positive redirection. Given his career and experience, though Magic Johnson has minimal management clout, he can identify with the team and add credibility. I think both the team and fans (audience) will feel a connection to Magic Johnson, as an approachable player who knows firsthand what it’s like to be a Laker.

      In addition, his leadership will be useful to draw back fans that may have fallen away in recent years. It will facilitate nostalgia for the old game. Furthermore, his leadership will improve fan morale, especially given the recent season trajectory. He will help fans feel excited and hopeful again for the future of the Lakers at large, as well as draw in new fans.

  2. davidmer says:

    I think Magic Johnson can succeed in this role as well. As mentioned earlier he’s a partner in ownership with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The move with the Dodgers has put them back in contention as one of the prominent organizations in Major League Baseball, mainly because the team has played well. However, sports fans in LA have such a high regard and affinity to Magic, that he could probably fill the seats even if the team wasn’t performing at the level they have the past few years.

    This is a great time for him to take on this role even though he may lack the experience. As a former player who won many championships, and understands basketball from both the player and fan perspective has the ability to connect fans with the players, and also connect the organization with the players and fans.

    The risk is definitely worth the investment. If it doesn’t work, the Lakers will need to try some other form of “magic” to become successful again. At this point in time though, the organization is struggling and is stale. The upside to this change can possibly lead to another great Laker run similar to the 1980’s and 2000’s eras.

  3. tojo says:

    I am also in agreement that Magic, as Vice President, is a positive direction for the Lakers. As stated in numerous ways above, Magic is an icon in both the professional sports world and LA culture. Despite having a professional sports player background, he has worn many hats in various business endeavors since his retirement, and I think he will be able to adapt to this new job. Plus, he knows this organization well and as been apart of it, in some professional capacity on and off, for over thirty-five years.

    But yes, I agree that this move by the Lakers organization definitely one of marketing. I think Laker fans, and perhaps players they are hoping to acquire, hold Magic in such regard that they they might see him as the the one to turn things around, which hopefully causes them to reinvest their time, attention and passion for the team.

    If it is not successful, then I think both Magic and the Lakers will receive some negative reactions, but nothing that will be too eternally damning for them. I think it is worth the risk.

  4. bammons says:

    I don’t know how I feel about Magic running things in LA. Magic is one of the most important professional sports icons and LA culture. He has done it all and is one of the greatest players to ever play the game, but that doesn’t mean he know how to un a team. Playing basketball and running a basketball business are two entirely different things and I think they will present a big challenge.